When a person wants to take a course of action, he is naturally tempted to go forward immediately, neglecting to make sure he is doing the right thing. Is he reasonably certain of the facts? Is he exposing himself to unwise risk? The clever person behaves prudently and thinks through what he is about to do before proceeding.
The foolish person is comfortable with ignorance and uncertainty because it allows him to go ahead and do what he wants to do without worrying about the consequences. He even lacks the discretion to hide his ignorance from the world.
טז = כָּל־עָרוּם יַעֲשֶׂה בְדָעַת וּכְסִיל יִפְרֹשׂ אִוֶּלֶת
(16) Every clever person acts with knowledge
but the fool declares his ignorance to the world by his actions.
This proverb emphasizes the behavior of the clever person who is careful to take action only when he is confident that he has sufficient knowledge. He is contrasted with the fool who lets his heart dictate what he should do and thereby reveals his foolishness to everyone.
Acting with prudence corresponds to speaking with discretion. As described in Segment 12-23 a clever person behaves with discretion to avoid revealing sensitive knowledge to those who are not able to use it properly.
(16) Every clever person — כָּל־עָרוּם
acts with knowledge — יַעֲשֶׂה בְדָעַת
but the fool — וּכְסִיל
declares his ignorance — יִפְרֹשׂ אִוֶּלֶת
to the world by his actions
(1) A clever person refuses to take action until he knows that his action is right and serves a purpose. (הגר”א, מלבי”ם)
(2) A foolish person allows his emotions to influence his jugment. And so, he acts even when he is uncertain of the facts. He even casts doubt upon the truth in order to do what his emotions persuade him to do. (מלבי”ם)
(3) When a clever person errs, he seeks to minimize the damage and its publicity, whereas the fool justifies his behavior and calls upon others to follow suit. (שבט מיהודה, דעת סופרים)
(4) The foolish person wastes his time by acting foolishly wherever he goes and therefore he never gets around to achieving what he really wants to achieve. (רלב”ג)
(5) If a person is known to be clever, you can assume that he has carefully
considered the action he is taking. (מצודות)
(6) When a shrewd deceiver sees that he is arousing suspicion, he immediately ceases his deception before he is exposed as a liar. But the fool tries to repair the damage of one lie with two more, and ensnares himself in a net of deception. (אלשיך)
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